A Word for Today: Glory (Hb. Kabod)


Kabed (Liver)
Kabod (Glory)
Kabsah (Ewe lamb, lamb)

When Eli’s daughter-in-law heard the news that the ark of the covenant had been taken by the Philistines, and both Eli and her husband were dead, 1 Sam. 4. 19, the shock was so great that she went into premature labour and sadly died in childbirth. Before she died, however, she named her son ‘I-chabod’ meaning ‘the glory [of the Lord] is departed from Israel’, 1 Sam. 4. 21, to reflect not only her own personal grief but the tragedy that had beset Israel. As Michael A. Grisanti writes, ‘“Glory” occurs at numerous junctures in the OT as a technical term for God’s presence. In referring to the departure of the “glory,” Phinehas’ wife uses a verb that commonly refers to exile (HALOT, 191) - “the glory has been exiled from Israel”’.1 If the Philistines thought that they had captured and neutralized Israel’s God then they would soon be disillusioned!

Although this is not recorded in the Book of Genesis, Adam possessed glory and honour in the Garden of Eden when he was given complete sovereignty over the earth, Heb. 2. 7, 8. What has marred the exercise of this sovereignty is the fall and so it is only through the second man, the last Adam, that that which was subsequently lost has been gloriously restored, v. 9; Ps. 69. 4.2

The Hebrew noun kabod means ‘glory’ in most of its occurrences in the Old Testament. It has the root sense of something being ‘weighty’; hence, it is often used in connection with ‘wealth’. For example, in the case of Abram, he is described as ‘very rich’ when he came up out of Egypt, Gen. 13. 2. It is also used critically of Jacob by Laban’s sons of the ‘wealth’ that he had gained from their father, 31. 1 NIV. It can also mean ‘honour’, as in Genesis chapter 45 verse 13 NIV, where Joseph addresses his brothers and asks them to tell his father Jacob ‘about all the honour accorded’ to him in Egypt. Broadly, when the word is used in association with human activities, it gives prominence to honour or reputation. So, in a subjective sense then, it is the opinion that others have of someone else or the reputation that they have gained from others, 1 Sam. 2. 29; Eccles. 10. 1. It is similarly used in this way by Josephus and Philo. W. E. Vine points out that, ‘The phrase “my glory” has reference to the tongue, in Psalms 16. 9 (compare Acts 2. 26); 30. 12 (margin); 57. 8; 108. 1. The tongue, as the interpreter of the soul, is the glory of man as superior to the brute; it is that by which he glorifies God, and therefore as associated with the soul, is man’s highest glory’.3 In writings outside the Old Testament, it is used of inanimate objects to describe such things as the magnificence of a building, 1 Ezr. 6. 9.4 But the chief use of the word kabod in the Old Testament is in relation to God and what distinguishes Him from all others.

This distinction is expressed by the word kabod in a variety of ways. As G. Kittel states, ‘Since God is invisible, it necessarily carries a reference to His self-manifestation’.5 How then does God express His glory when He is invisible? Sometimes it is through mighty acts of nature, such as the imagery of the thunderstorm and bolts of lightning blazing across the skies making manifest His glory (kabod), Ps. 29. 3; 97. 2-6. The heavens themselves reflect God’s effulgent glory, 19. 1, and when God deigns to meet with men, it is ‘in a thick cloud’, Exod. 19. 9; Deut. 4. 11; cp. Heb. 12. 18, and His glory is manifested, Exod. 40. 34; 1 Kgs. 8. 10-12. Moses’ experience of being in the presence of God’s glory is transmitted to him and radiated in his face, Exod. 24. 15; 2 Cor. 3. 7. Later, he asked to see the glory of God, and had to hide in the cleft of the rock when God’s glory passed by him, Exod. 33. 18-23. Ezekiel has visions of the glory (kabod) and splendour of God as he experiences the revelation of the throne of God, Ezek. 10. 1-6, but it is in the act of salvation that God’s glory is seen throughout the habitable world, Ps. 96. 2-9. Even though Israel had forfeited the glory of the Lord, 1 Sam. 4. 21, that glory (kabod) will return in the last days bringing salvation to Israel,6 and many nations of the earth will join themselves to the Lord, serve Him, and experience His glory, Isa. 66. 3-6; Zech. 2. 11. In Psalm 24 verse 7, God is revealed as the God or King of glory who is further identified as the Lord of Hosts, v. 10.

The Old Testament is therefore punctuated by the manifestation of the glory of God and, as one commentator rightly observes, ‘A survey of the references yields a tour of some of the Bible’s great moments - from the giving of the law (Ex. 24. 12-18), to the wilderness wanderings of Israel (Num. 14. 10, 21, 22; 16. 19, 42; 20. 6), and the worship of God in the tabernacle (Lev. 9. 6, 23) and temple (1 Kings 8. 11; 2 Chron 5. 14), to the call and prophetic vision of the prophets Isaiah (Is. 6) and Ezekiel (Ezek. 1)’.7

In the Septuagint (LXX) the word kabod is represented by the Greek word doxa and often expresses the word Kabod in slightly different ways. For example, in Isaiah chapter 62 verse 8, the Masoretic Text (MT) reads, ‘The Lord hath sworn by his right hand, and by the arm of his strength’ which is translated by the LXX as, ‘For the Lord has sworn by his glory, and by the might of his arm’. Thus, the LXX interprets the right hand of God as the place of His glory. Similarly, in the Lamentations of Jeremiah, chapter 2 verse 11, the MT reads, ‘My liver is poured upon the earth’ whereas the LXX states, ‘My glory is cast down to the ground’. Here, the lament by the writer expressed by the use of the word ‘glory’ or literally ‘weight’ in the LXX highlights his profound emotional reaction to the nation’s calamitous state.

This same Greek word doxa is the dynamic equivalent in the New Testament of kabod where it occurs over 160 times and is used in a variety of contexts not only in relation to God but also to human and earthly powers. In respect of human glory or kudos, the word is used negatively of those who speak on their own account, not God’s, and seek their own glory, John 7. 18, of those who glory in their shameful activities, Phil. 3. 19, and of those who seek glory from men, 1 Thess. 2. 6.8 Positively, when applied to God, it is directly linked with formal praise, as in Luke chapter 2 verse 14 where a multitude of the heavenly host glorify God’s name, and of Abraham who rightly gave God the glory for fulfilling His promise to him of a son, Rom. 4. 20. Conversely, in a negative way, it is used where Herod failed to give God the glory for his elevated status, Acts 12. 23. But it is in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ that the glory of God is perceptibly uncovered. John in his prologue identifies the Word with the glory of God, John 1. 14, and even though the synoptic parallels detailing the transfiguration do not refer to Christ’s glory,9 Peter, who was an eyewitness of this event, makes it quite clear later that it was a visible example of the glory of God in Christ, 2 Pet. 1. 16-18. Just as there were occasions when the Shekhinah glory of God filled the tabernacle, Exod. 40. 34, 35, so the glory of God perfectly resided in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, John. 1. 14, 18; 17. 5, 22-24. In Peter’s first letter, he also refers to the glory of Christ’s resurrection, 1 Pet. 1. 21; cp. Rom. 6. 4. For Paul, the visible glory of God is seen in Jesus Christ, whom he describes as ‘the Lord of glory’, 1 Cor. 2. 8; cp. Jas. 2. 1, and in whose face the knowledge of the glory of God is tangibly expressed, 2 Cor. 4. 6. The gospel that Paul preached was a revelation of the ‘glory of Christ, who is the image of God’, 2 Cor. 4. 4 ESV. Those who exercise faith in the finished work of Christ not only have the certainty of glory, Col. 1. 27, but will one day ‘appear with him in glory’, 3. 4. ‘Glory is one of the great positive images of the Bible … it is paradoxically a divine quality that is remote from human finitude and yet is held out to believers as something they will share’.10 May we constantly then be ‘waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ’, Titus 2. 13 ESV.

For further reading/study


‘Glory’ in Leland Ryken et al (eds), Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, IVP Academic, pp. 330, 331.


Kabod in Willem A. VanGemeren (ed.), Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, Zondervan, Volume 2, pp. 577-587.



Michael A. Grisanti, The Bible Knowledge Word Study, Joshua-2 Chronicles, David C. Cook, pg. 132.


Interestingly, in the Qumran community it was anticipated that the elect would ‘inherit all the glory of Adam’ (IQH 4. 15; cf. CD 3. 20) see Verlyn D. Verbrugge (ed.), The NIV Theological Dictionary of New Testament Words, STL, pg. 346.


W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words, Oliphants, pg. 65.


This is a reference to the First Book of Esdras, which is Deutero-canonical.


G. Kittel, TDNT (Abridged in One Volume), Eerdmans, pg. 178.


Isa. 4. 5, 6; 60. 1-3; Ezek. 39. 21-29.


Leland Ryken et al (eds), Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, IVP Academic, pg. 330.


In this context the word doxa could, in fact, be rendered ‘honorarium’, so Paul could be asserting he was not looking for financial reward from the Thessalonians, hence his qualification, ‘as apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you’, 1 Thess. 2. 6 NIV.


Matt. 17. 1-8; Mark 9. 2-8; Luke 9. 28-36.


Leland Ryken et al (eds), op. cit., pg. 331.


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